The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe
Yet while fans have had their fair share of yuletide yarns, there have been none that felt quite so classically, indulgently, infectiously Christmassy as ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe‘.
The Christmas specials have been a very mixed bag, and for the most part (last year’s strong “Christmas Carol” homage excepted), the best ones have tended to be heavily-steeped in the series’ ongoing storylines. “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” had very little to do with continuity, and the only scene that I expect I’m going to remember was the coda with the Doctor visiting Amy and Rory for Christmas dinner.
The episode opens with the Doctor on an intergalactic space ship that is exploding around him. He tries to get ahead of the explosions but is unsuccessful and finds himself hanging on to the edge of part of the ship that is already blown up. Another explosion occurs and the Doctor finds himself hurling through space reaching for a space suit that happens to fall along with him. The Doctor is able to grab the falling space suite as they head to Earth below them.
Watch Doctor Who – The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe Online
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Doctor Who S06E14: The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe
The Doctor, as it turns out, has landed in Britain—which he generally seems to do—on the eve of the Second World War. He’s discovered by the seemingly unflappable Madge (played by Claire Skinner, a veteran of Mike Leigh movies, though not the recent ones.) “I found a spaceman in a field… Possibly an angel,” she tells her kids. By the episode’s end, she’ll be proven right on both counts. But for now she’s the one in the business of rescuing and, after seeing him to his TARDIS, she probably assumes she’s seen the last of him. But she can’t see the future. Talking to her husband as he reads a newspaper about the gathering storm in Europe she asks, “If people keep reading about the war it will actually happen. And then where will you be?” Cut to three years later. Cut to an apparent disaster over the English Channel. Cut to a grieving Skinner deciding to keep the news from her kids until after the holiday.
The small cast (four principals and an equal number of supporting players – not counting the final scene) keeps the feeling of family throughout and the absence of a true villain while still maintaining a palpable threat feels somehow more Christmasy than many previous Specials. Both children hold their parts well, and hats off to the costume department who have provided young Cyril make his eyes appear gynormous and for me, helped sell the “classic” fantasy of the story somehow.
Several days later, the kids are making plans for Christmas and ask their mom when their dad will be coming home. Not wanting to ruin the holiday for the kids, she tells them their father will be home for Christmas dinner as usual. The kids have a wishbone between them and decide to do what all kids do with one and make a wish and pull. Madge, hearing the kids make a wish, decides to make a wish of her own.
Particularly the Moffat era of Doctor Who. It begins as one sort of story—a trip to a Christmas tree planet where baubles literally grow on trees—and then shifts, becoming a kind of ecological redemption tale that never loses sight of its Christmas themes. As usual, when a Moffat episode works—and some work better than others—it’s the Moffat voice that unites the disparate elements. About halfway through the episode I started to wonder if the Doctor even needed to be there for the story to work. The kids could easily have moved toward their destination without his guidance—and in a proper fantasy story, they probably wouldn’t have had much of a guide—and it’s ultimately their mother who saves the day. It’s not that the Doctor is just along for the ride, but this isn’t his most proactive adventure. But he does need to be there, to explain things, sure, but also to deliver lines like “Why is there honey in a honeytrap?” and my favorite: “It’s a big universe. Everything happens somewhere.”
The other touching moment was at the end of the episode when the Doctor brushed away a stray tear from his face before he joined Amy and Rory for Christmas dinner. Earlier, he told Madge that he couldn’t feel ‘those things anymore’ but it turned out that he was wrong and it is unlikely that this will be the last time we see this Doctor shed a tear. It was lovely to see the Doctor reunited with the Ponds and it is going to make it all the more sad when they make their ‘heartbreaking’ departure.
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe was a reassuring reminder that while attention, hype, and supporting characters come and go, the show’s real and enduring appeal lies in its unique cocktail of brain-bending, inspired sci-fi, ever-evolving lead (how was that episode-ending tear and a smile for nuanced character development?), and the heart-warming importance of peace and goodwill among men (and aliens).
Wow! Aside from the Naysayers, I loved the episode! Sure it weaves in some cliches from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but you had to have known that just from the Title. I admit, the opening sequence left me a bit lost as to what was going on and how the Doctor was on that ship and why was the ship there in the late 1930’s. They never did elaborate on that. Also that is some suit that survives re-entry and impact with the Earth yet protects the wearer! But once you let go and become wrapped in the Doctor and his benevolent spirit, the show just beams! I waited so long for this show, counting the days to its arrival, and when I finally got to see it I found myself wiping away the tears. Good show! And a tiny glimpse into the protected self of the Doctor! Tears from Happiness, what a concept!
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